If you or a loved one believes you have been wrongfully terminated or denied compensation by your employer, you may have an Employment Law case. You may also be entitled to compensation for past and future lost income, among other losses. Our firm is currently working with experienced RI employment lawyers. Call toll free or fill out a contact form for a free consultation.
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RI Employment Law
Both employers and employees have certain rights at the workplace. Many employers and employees are not aware of their exact employment rights. A knowledgeable RI Employment Lawyer can help workers understand their rights and explain to them the potential remedies available in instances where those rights have been violated. If you are an employer or an employee who has been involved in an employment dispute, an employment attorney can help you vindicate your rights at the workplace. Contact the Law Offices of d’Oliveira & Associates today, regarding a potential employment lawsuit.
Employers and employees face a range of employment issues, typically due to the vast amount of federal legislation in the United States regarding workplace issues. Oftentimes state law, usually similar to legislation at the federal level, also governs employer and employee rights in the workplace.
Some Common Employment Law Issues:
- Discrimination claims (Title VII legislation)
- ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act)
- FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act)
- Workplace safety (OSHA)
- Job benefits
- FLSA matters (Fair Labor Standards Act)
Employment litigation typically involves complex state and federal legislation. Vindication of employee or employer workplace rights will best be achieved with the assistance of a knowledgeable employment attorney. A law firm with extensive trial experience often will be in the best position to help workers and employers achieve acknowledgment of their rights at the workplace. An employment lawyer will have an enhanced understanding of the dynamic of employee and employer relations.
- Discrimination laws protect workers from wrongful termination as a result of their protected class, and other retaliatory actions. Sometimes discrimination may be obvious to an employee, but sometimes the discrimination may take on a more subtle form and be hard to detect. Legislation typically protects employees from discrimination based on race, religion, sex, age, and disability.
- ERISA laws help to ensure that an employee recovers the benefits due to that employee by reason of an employer-sponsored retirement, health, or disability insurance plan.
- FMLA laws ensure an employee a certain amount of unpaid leave for various reasons, including, but not limited to, family member care, serious health issues of the employee, or birth/adoption of a child.
- OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) laws work to prevent injuries and protect the health of U.S. workers by ensuring safe and healthy workplaces.
- FLSA legislation ensures that employees receive the minimum wage and overtime benefits due to them by an employer.
Employee Wage and Hour Claims (FLSA)
Employers must abide by certain laws governing the wages and hours of their employees. Although it has undergone some changes and alterations over the years, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is still the focal point of America’s wage and hour laws. The FLSA is a federal law that can be categorized by its three main purposes. First, the FLSA sets a minimum wage. Second, the FLSA establishes the rate by which employees should be compensated for working overtime. Finally, the Act creates a child labor provision to set limitations on the age individuals must reach before they can be employed.
Minimum wages are the lowest wages employers may legally pay their employees. Also, workers may not provide their labor for less than the prescribed minimum wage. While states do have the right to create their own minimum wages, these wages cannot fall below the federal minimum wage.
Below is a list of current minimum wage levels:
- Federal Minimum Wage = $7.25
- Rhode Island Minimum Wage = $7.75
- Massachusetts Minimum Wage = $8.00
- Connecticut Minimum Wage = $8.25
All employees must be compensated for any time they spend working, or performing tasks that benefit the employer. This includes regularly scheduled work and any other time spent working off the clock if the employer knows, or has reason to know, the employee is working. Unfortunately, employers sometimes unlawfully fail to compensate employees for the time they spend working.
For example, according to a report in BusinessWeek, Hollywood Video was sued by some of their employees who claimed they were unpaid for time worked. Although the employees were spending time in the morning starting up the computer systems, and time at night closing out the cash registers, they were not being compensated for completing those tasks. By law, it is the employer’s duty to regulate its employee’s work. Therefore, if the employer has knowledge that an employee was working off the clock and continues to allow it, the employee is entitled to receive payment for the hours worked.
Calculating the exact number of hours worked in a week is very important because employees may be entitled to additional compensation. Under the FLSA, most employees who work over 40 hours in a workweek must be paid overtime for those additional hours. Overtime pay, also known as premium pay, is to be paid to an employee at a rate of at least one and one-half times their regularly earned wage.
Not all employees working over 40 hours are entitled to overtime pay. Typically, employees earning salaries with the ability to exercise discretion of their work schedule are considered exempt from receiving overtime pay. However, some employees entitled to overtime pay may have the mistaken belief that they are exempt. Often times, this mistaken belief is a result of employers skirting their responsibility to pay employees at the increased overtime rates.
A very common way for employers to avoid paying overtime pay is by misclassifying the employee as exempt. Basically, an employee will be performing their usual job duties under the same routine with minimal discretion, but will not receive overtime pay because the employer has given them a different title (e.g., supervisor or manager). This practice of misclassifying employees to avoid paying overtime is unlawful and employees in such situations may be entitled to payment of lost wages.
Some methods used by employers to avoid fairly compensating their employees include:
- Instructing or allowing employees to work off the clock without pay
- Not paying employees for all meal breaks
- Not allowing employees to take breaks
- Paying employees less than the minimum wage
- Misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime
- Failing to compensate employees for attending meetings or training sessions
- Not paying the correct wage for overtime hours
- Failing to properly compensate employees for on-call time
Sexual harassment within the workplace occurs far more frequently than most people think. Sexual harassment violates both federal and state law. The Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights defines sexual harassment as “a form of discrimination that occurs when an individual makes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and/or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature against his or her wishes.”
There are two types of legally recognized sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo is a latin term meaning “something for something”. Quid pro quo sexual harassment means that an individual’s compliance with or rejection of sexual conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions, or such conduct is made a condition of employment. For example, if a sexual advance is made and an employee rejects the advance and is then fired, this is quid pro quo sexual harassment. Hostile work environment sexual harassment means that conduct is severe enough that it alters the conditions of the victim’s employment and creates an abusive working environment. An example of hostile work environment is an employee’s boss making comments every day that are so pervasive and unwelcome that it alters the conditions of employment.
Facts About Sexual Harassment
Contact the Law Offices of d’Oliveira & Associates
If you feel you are not being treated fairly by your employer, you may be entitled to compensation. An attorney familiar with labor and employment law can help you assess your claim, advise you of any next steps to take, and file an employment lawsuit on your behalf if necessary.
Contact d’Oliveira & Associates at 1-800-992-6878 or fill out a contact form for a free legal consultation.